Karel apek was essentially a thinker who used a variety of forms to express his philosophical and political ruminations. Aside from his dramatic writing, apek’s work falls into three categories: political and philosophical writing, tales, and novels. Among his political and philosophical publications are Pragmatismus (1918), a direct outgrowth of work he did in his doctoral program at Charles University. This was followed in 1920-1921 by Musaion, a collection of essays on modern art, in part an outgrowth of his doctoral dissertation, “Objective Methods in Aesthetics.” In 1928, apek published the first of the three volumes of Hovory s T. G. Masarykem (President Masaryk Tells His Story, 1934; also as Masaryk on Thought and Life, 1938). This extensive work, completed in 1935, grew out of apek’s close friendship with his former university professor, Tomas G. Masaryk, who served as Czechoslovakia’s president from 1918 until 1935. Out of this same period appeared a closely related collection of essays, O vcech obecných: ili, Zóon politikon (on public matters), published in 1932. A posthumous collection of essays Veci kolemnás (the things around us) was published in 1954.
apek, sometimes in collaboration with his brother Josef, liked to write tales and sketches, often of the fantastic. Many of these tales and sketches were collected and published, beginning with Záivé hlubiny (1916; The Luminous Depths, 1916), Bozí muka (1917; wayside crosses), and Krakonoova zahrada (1918; the garden of Krakono)—all these pieces written with Josef. In 1929, apek published on his own two collections of tales, Povídky z jedné kapsy (tales from one pocket) and Povídky z druhé kapsy (tales from the other pocket), translated into English and published together as Tales from Two Pockets in 1932.
apek’s novels combine political philosophy with a strong sense of the fantastic. The first, Továrna na absolutno, appeared in 1922 and is variously known in English as The Absolute at Large (1927), Factory for the Absolute, and Manufacture of the Absolute. apek then began the ambitious project of writing a trilogy that consisted of Hordubal (1933; English translation, 1934), Povtroó (1934; Meteor, 1935), and Obyejný ivot (1934; An Ordinary Life, 1936). These three novels, coming just as Adolf Hitler’s ascendancy in Germany was being noted widely, led to apek’s fifth novel, Válka s mloky (1936; The War with the Newts, 1937), which was openly anti-Fascist and specifically anti-Hitler. První parta (1937; The First Rescue Party, 1939) continued to develop the political philosophies found in the early novels.